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¡PANAMA!. Panamanian demographics. LOCATION: Central & South America GOVERNMENT:   Constitutional Democracy OFFICIAL LANGUAGE : Spanish (official), English 14% MAJOR RELIGION(S):  Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%

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panamanian demographics
Panamanian demographics
  • LOCATION: Central & South America
  • GOVERNMENT:  Constitutional Democracy
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Spanish (official), English 14%
  • MAJOR RELIGION(S): Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
  • MAJOR ETHNIC GROUPS: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
  • CITIZENS: Panamanians
  • Population (March 2011) 3, 405, 813
  • Literacy: 94.5%
  • In 1501 the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas, in the company of Juan de la Cosa and Vasco Núñez de Balboa, was the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of the Isthmus of Panama.
  • During his 4th voyage, after a brief stop at Jamaica, Columbus sailed to Central America and arrived in Panama on 16 October 1502.
  • In Panama, Columbus learned from the natives of gold and a strait to another ocean. After much exploration, in January 1503 he established a garrison at the mouth of the Belén River.

In 1510, Vasco Núñez de Balboa founded Santa María la Antigua del Darién was a Spanish colonial town located in present-day Colombia .

  • After Pascual de Andagoya, a Spanish-Basque conquistador, arrived in Panama City in 1519, Santa María la Antigua del Darién was abandoned and in 1524 was attacked and burned by the indigenous people.

News of a new kingdom, rich in gold, was received by Balboa with great interest.

  • The expedition to the South Sea (the name at the time of the Pacific Ocean) was being organized.
  • According to information from the natives, the South Sea could be seen from the summit of this range. Balboa went ahead and, before noon that day, September 25, he reached the summit and saw, far away in the horizon, the waters of the undiscovered sea.

The men erected stone pyramids, and engraved crosses on the barks of trees with their swords, to mark the place where the "discovery" of the South Sea was made.

Balboa claiming possession of the South Sea


1519 Panama la Viejo was first city on Pacific.

  • Treasure from Mexico was stored there.
  • It attracted PIRATES!

Sir Francis Drake initially arrived in Panama during his 1572-73 expedition, and left with silver

  • “El Draque” returned to Panama in early 1595 with 1000 men and the intent of sacking Nombre De Dios.
  • He later planned to attack Panama Viejo, but that never materialized.
  • Drake decided that they would head for more promising waters off the Central American coast.
  • Their journey was delayed by a storm and the fleet anchored of a small island near Portobelo.
  • Drake fell ill and died at the age of 56 on August 28, 1595. His body was cast into the sea in a lead coffin off Drakes Island near Portobelo.

His coffin was discovered by some present day divers who notified the British Government. The Government said not to desecrate the grave of a British Knight. It is not known what happened to the coffin after this.


In 1821 Panama gained its independence from Spain but joined with Columbia.

  • Simon Bolívar called for a confederation of the Hispanic American countries, and in 1826 he assembled a congress in Panama, but the league he had envisaged never materialized.
  • He had another plan for the countries he had liberated—Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia; he wanted to unite them in a Federation of the Andes, with himself as president and with the Bolivian constitution as the permanent basis of government.
  • This project also failed.

Panama tried to separate 5 times from Columbia.

  • (Why is there no road between Panama and Columbia?)
the canal
The Canal
  • As early as 1534 Charles V of Spain wanted to build a canal.
  • A railroad was constructed and that took 5 years.
    • It was at the time of the California Gold Rush, and gold was passing through.
the first attempt
The First Attempt
  • From 1881-1889 the French tried to build a canal under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lessups who had built the Suez Canal.
  • Columbia sold the rights to build the canal to the CompagnieUniverselle du Canal Interoceanique.
  • However, in Panama they had to deal with rock instead of sand, and disease was a major problem (22,000 people died of disease), and the company went bankrupt.

Later, when Colombia rejected the United States’ plans to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, the U.S. supported a revolution that led to the independence of Panama in 1903.

  • The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty allowed the U.S. to build the Panama Canal and provided for perpetual control of a zone five-miles wide on either side of the canal.
  • The Panama Canal was successfully built from 1904 to 1914.
  • The French had attempted to build a sea level canal, but the American plan used a number of locks.
Once the canal was complete the U.S. held a swath of land running the approximately 50 miles across the isthmus of Panama.

The division of the country of Panama into two parts by the U.S. territory of the Canal Zone caused tension throughout the twentieth century.

Additionally, the self-contained Canal Zone (the official name for the U.S. territory in Panama) contributed little to the Panamanian economy.

The residents of the Canal Zone were primarily U.S. citizens and West Indians who worked in the Zone and on the canal.


Anger flared in the 1960s and led to anti-American riots.

  • The U.S. and Panamanian governments began to work together to solve the territorial issue.
  • In 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty which agreed to return 60% of the Canal Zone to Panama in 1979.
  • The canal and remaining territory, known as the Canal Area, was returned to Panama at noon (local Panama time) on December 31, 1999.

The canal makes the trip from the east coast to the west coast of the U.S. much shorter than the route taken around the tip of South America prior to 1914.

  • Though traffic continues to increase through the canal, many oil supertankers and military battleships and aircraft carriers can not fit through the canal.
  • There's even a class of ships known as "Panamax," those built to the maximum capacity of the Panama canal and its locks.

It takes approximately fifteen hours to traverse the canal through its three sets of locks (about half the time is spent waiting due to traffic).

  • Ships passing through the canal from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean actually move from the northwest to the southeast, due to the east-west orientation of the Isthmus of Panama.
panama canal expansion
Panama Canal Expansion
  • In September, 2007 work began on a $5.2 billion project to expand the Panama Canal.
  • Originally planned to be complete in 2014 (the 100th anniversary), the Panama Canal expansion project will allow ships double the size of current Panamax to pass through the canal, dramatically increasing the amount of goods that can pass through the canal.
  • This will be accomplished by adding 2 new 3 chamber locks at both ends.
  • It now appears that the expansion will not be completed until 2015.
general omar torrijos herrera
General Omar Torrijos Herrera
  • Deposed the prior president in 1968.
  • By the time Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January 1977, most of the hemisphere had lined up behind Torrijos and Panama and against the United States on the volatile issue concerning the canal.
  • When Torrijos finally got the Americans to accept new canal and neutrality treaties (which provided for total Panamanian control in the year 2000 but immediately ended the hated Canal Zone) he was condemned as a Marxist stooge in the United States and as Uncle Sam's puppet by critics in his own country.

When the canal treaties were finally ratified—after emotional debates in both countries—Torrijos relinquished the presidential chair to Aristides Royo, a civilian, but reappeared every so often to let people know he was still in charge.

  • Despite the massive infusions of investment (largely in banking) in the 1970s, Panama's economy began to suffer, and Torrijos got blamed by the left for selling out to the capitalists.
  • When Torrijos provided the Shah of Iran with sanctuary in December 1979, there were riots that the National Guard quashed with clubs and fire hoses.
  • Yet, in the preceding years, Torrijos had provided a safe haven for Sandinista rebels in their war against the Somoza government in Nicaragua.
manuel noreiga
Manuel Noreiga
  • When Torrijos died in a plane accident on July 31, 1981, some claimed that the actual cause for the accident was a bomb and that Noriega was behind the incident.
  • Although the relationship did not become contractual until 1967, Noriega worked with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from the late 1950s until the 1980s.
  • In 1988 grand juries in Tampa and Miami indicted him on U.S. federal drug charges.

Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, Noriega was able to manipulate U.S. policy toward his country, while skillfully accumulating near-absolute power in Panama.

  • It is clear that each U.S. government agency which had a relationship with Noriega turned a blind eye to his corruption and drug dealing, even as he was emerging as a key player on behalf of the Medellín Cartel (a member of which was notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar)."

Noriega strengthened his position as de facto ruler in August 1983 by promoting himself to full general. Noriega, being paid by the CIA, extended new rights to the United States, and, despite the canal treaties, allowed the U.S. to set up listening posts in Panama. He aided the American-backed guerrillas in Nicaragua by acting as a conduit for U.S. money and, according to some accounts, weapons.

  • In 1989, Noriega canceled the presidential elections and attempted to rule through a puppet government. After a military coup against Noriega failed, the United States invaded Panama, and Noriega finally surrendered In January 1990.

On December 11, 2011, more than two decades after the U.S. forced him from power, Manuel Noriega returned to Panama on Sunday as a prisoner and, to many of those he once ruled with impunity, an irrelevant man.

native groups
Native groups
  • Kunas
  • Embera
  • Wounaan
  • Ngobe Bugle
  • Teribe
  • Bokota

Kuna or Cuna is the name of an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. The spelling Kuna is currently preferred.

  • The Kuna live in three politically autonomous comarcas or reservations in Panama.
  • There are also communities of Kuna people in Panama City, Colón, and other cities.
  • The most Kunas live on small islands off the coast of the comarca of Kuna Yala known as the San Blas Islands.

The Kuna are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form made with the techniques of appliqué and reverse appliqué. Mola panels are used to make the blouses of the Kuna women's national dress, which is worn daily by many Kuna women. Mola means "clothing" in the Kuna language.

  • The economy of Kuna Yala is based on agriculture, fishing and the manufacture of clothing with a long tradition of international trade.
  • The Kunas were living in what is now Colombia at the time of the Spanish invasion, and only later began to move westward.
  • The name "Embera" means "people.“
  • Collectively they are known as the Chocó and belong to two major groups: the Embirá, of upper Atrato and San Juan Rivers, and the Wuanana of the lower San Juan River.

The Chocó, or Embera people live in small villages of 5 to 20 houses along the banks of the rivers.

  • Their houses are raised off the ground about eight feet. The houses stand on large posts set in the ground, and have thatched roof made from palm fronds.

The land is community owned and community farmed. Everyone in the village pitches in to work at harvest time

  • The men sport "bowl cut" hair styles, and when not in towns, still wear nothing but a minimal loin cloth.
  • The women wear brightly colored cloth wrapped at the waist as a skirt.
  • Except when in towns, the women do not cover their torsos, and wear long, straight black hair.
  • The children go naked until puberty, and no one wears shoes.

They paint their bodies with a dye made from the berry of a species of genip tree. The black dye is thought to repel insects.

  • On special occasions, using this same dye, they print intricate geometric patterns all over their bodies, using wood blocks carved from balsa wood.
  • The women also wear silver necklaces and silver earrings on these special occasions; many of the necklaces being made of old silver coins. They punch a hole in the coin and run a silver chain through it.
  • Many of the coins on these necklaces date to the 19th century and are passed down from mother to daughter.
  • “Panamanian Time”
  • Procrastinate; present oriented; do not plan ahead
  • Foreign business people should still show up on time for business meetings
  • People often work six day weeks
  • Happy go lucky
  • People forget last week’s corruption
  • Panamanians prefer close, long term commitments.
  • They like to work with people they know.
  • Loyal
  • Strong family ties
hierarchical society
Hierarchical Society
  • Subordinates do what they are told.
  • Top level management does the negotiating.
  • Most businesses are family owned, and only family members may have decision-making authority.
  • But power distance is not as great as some other Latin American countries. Directors may socialize with employees.
  • People flaunt it if they have money.
  • Many Panamanians are what Americans would consider to be poor.
  • The elderly are respected.
  • Power Distance not as great as Mexico.

Panamanians love American bosses: friendly relationship with employees.

  • Spanish are also great bosses. People wont leave even for more money. Treat Panamanians as equals. They realize that they are the foreigners.
  • Business people do not use first names unless they are known to each other.
  • Formal Spanish is used with acquaintances.
  • Business people (including woman) shake hands, and maintain eye contact.
  • Dress is formal. People in cities dress for success.
  • With a person in a position of authority or older, use “Usted;” use “Tu” if on a first name basis
uncertainty avoidance
Uncertainty Avoidance
  • High preference for avoiding uncertainty.
  • This results in a rigid code of belief and behavior.
  • Others say that Panamanians adapt easily to change and are flexible. They recover quickly.
  • “People forget about last weeks corruption.”
  • Panamanians are less direct than Americans and Europeans, and prefer subtle negotiations.
contract or relationship
Contract or relationship?
  • The relationship is more important than the contract.
  • Contracts are brief. If a dispute arises, the parties will resolve it.
  • Panamanians are not confrontational but will not wait for the courts. Will settle themselves.
  • Difficult for courts to resolve contract disputes because contracts are not detailed.
  • Court procedure takes longer but is less expensive than in the U.S.
  • Women are found in business and the professions. Many are college educated.
  • Foreign businesswomen are not likely to be met with hostility due to their gender.
  • Outside of cities, women have more traditional roles.
  • Machismo may be declining, but it is still a factor.
what do panamanians think of americans
What do Panamanians think of Americans?
  • Opinions are divided about people from the U.S., following the relinquishment of the Canal.
  • They love American bosses who have friendly relationships with employees
  • In business negotiations, Americans frequently seem to be competitive, confrontational, condescending, know-it-alls
what is unique about panama
What is unique about Panama?
  • Mix of U.S., Latin, and even Chinese cultures.
  • Tradition not as important. Will tear down historic buildings.
  • Panamanians are friendly, polite, and relaxed.
  • In Panama City, business is very “American,” but bribery and nepotism exists.
  • More cars than roads
  • The bus system consists of DiablosRojos.
  • Pedestrians do not have the right of way.
  • If light is yellow, drivers speed up.
  • Panamanians arealways in a hurry because they don’t plan ahead
  • Wait longer for food
  • Food is brought out when ready; don’t wait until all food is ready.
  • Waiter won’t come as often.
  • For good service give 10% tip.
  • Going out to eat is a social event. People don’t like to be rushed. They can sit for hours.
  • You must ask for check.
  • Panamanians love to party.
  • They will celebrate anything, even a divorce.
  • Carnavale is the biggest celebration; everything shuts down.
  • Also, towns will have fairs on their Patron Saint’s day.
  • A queen named for every event.
  • Everyone learns how to dance.
its all about money
Its all about money
  • No overt racism or racial issues in Panama.
  • More about how much money you have.
  • Neighborhoods are only segregated by money.
  • Influence of many cultures
  • Greetings: Man greeting Man - Men shake hands when greeting one another and maintain direct eye contact.  At a first meeting a handshake will suffice and is sometimes combined with slight touches on the arms and/or elbows.
  • Woman greeting Woman- At a first meeting, women usually shake hands.  Friends and close acquaintances generally kiss each other once on the cheek. 
  • Man greeting Woman- At a first meeting a regular handshake will do.  Friends, family and close acquaintances generally share a light kiss on the cheek.

Eye Contact: Panamanians tend to favor direct eye contact over indirect. 

  • During conversations sustained eye contact is commonplace rather than sporadic.
  • Gestures: You point at most things with your lips, by making sort of a kissing/pouting gesture in the direction you want to point.
  • To hail a cab you put your hand out, palm down, and pull your fingers in (sort of saying “come here” with your hands).

Taboos: Showing someone a raised middle finger is an obscene gesture

  • Business Meetings: Arriving on time for a meeting is important even though you may be kept waiting.
  • There is usually some form of small talk before getting down to business.  It is best to allow your host to begin the business discussion.
  • Suitable topics include: local culture, family, sports.

Panama offers a modern urban infrastructure.

    • US Dollar as the Currency
  • English is spoken as a second language
  • First-World Infrastructure (a capital city similar to the United States with high speed Internet, hotels, restaurants and shopping. The highway infrastructure, medical care, telecommunications and business services are also comparable to the United States.)
    • Economically and Politically Sound
    • Modern and Successful Offshore Bank Haven

Major industries

    • Duty free Colon
    • Tourism
    • Panama Canal
    • Banking Center (Largest in Central America; one of the biggest in Latin America)
    • Ports
    • Railroad company (transporting goods, not people)
  • Import more than export
  • Panama is one of the few Latin American economies that is predominantly services-based. Services represent about 80 percent of Panama’s Gross Domestic Product.

Average salary $500-600 per month

  • Minimum wage $425 month

Many international countries have their headquarters in Panama

  • Panama actively encourages foreign investment, and with few exceptions, the Government of Panama (GOP) makes no distinction between domestic and foreign companies for investment purposes. Panama continues to enjoy the strongest economic growth in Latin America.
  • While international indices generally rate Panama as one of the best countries in Latin America for business and investment, poor rule of law, lack of judicial independence, a shortage of skilled workers, high levels of corruption, and poorly staffed government institutions all add risk and complication to business dealings. The U.S. Government has received numerous reports of fraud and corruption in connection with titles to property purchased by U.S. investors
  • The United States – Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) entered into force on October 31, 2012 and has significantly liberalized trade in goods and services, including financial services. The TPA also includes sections on customs administration and trade facilitation, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, government procurement, investment, telecommunications, electronic commerce, intellectual property rights, and labor and environmental protection.